The rich man, who had been watching from a hidden place, became frightened as he saw this miracle. He pay the boy generously and released him from his service. Giving away his worldly things, John left his village to live in the barren countryside. When and where he took his [[monasticism|monastic]] [[tonsure]] is unknown.
He began his [[
ascetic ism|ascetic]] life in a brushwood hut on a high, barren hill. For his food he gathered from the plants in the wilderness. But, soon he was attacked by robbers who beat him and drove him away. Finding a deep cave he settled there and was soon joined by his cousin Luke. The area around the cave was so unpopulated that John thought that Luke's appearance was a demonic trick, but he soon learned that the youth was looking for salvation of his soul. However, their lives together did not last long as John's brother found the ascetics and took his son away. On their way home, Luke was bitten by a snake and soon died. His brother repented his action and asked forgiveness of John. John would often visit the grave of his cousin, a place that became his favorite place of rest.
After living for twelve years in the lonely cave, John moved to the wilderness of Rila where he settled in a hollow in a tree. There he fasted and prayed while weeping incessantly. He only ate grass. Seeing such endurance, God caused beans to grow nearby that provided sustenance for the ascetic. The beans soon caused people to learn of John's spiritual struggles.
*[http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsLife.asp?FSID=103000 OCA: Translation of the relics of Venerable St John the Abbot of Rila in Bulgaria